From the Editor: Edibles: Two Sides to the Story
People have been consuming foods and beverages made from cannabis for—well, as long as there have been people. Edibles were a medicinal staple for the ancients, and their healthful qualities have been known here in America for at least two centuries.
Today, edibles take numerous forms, including teas, candies, gummies, baked goods, butters, and oils, and are used therapeutically to relieve pain, anxiety, nausea, sleep difficulties, spasticity, and symptoms of cancer, among other conditions, though the evidence for many of these uses is lacking.
As edibles have surged in popularity, they’ve frequently made the headlines, and largely not for their benefits. Numerous reports document the rise in emergency department (ED) visits related to edible use and misuse. Reported adverse effects include psychiatric and cardiac effects, often a result of consuming too much. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that while inhaled cannabis was responsible for more ED visits, ingested cannabis resulted in more than the expected number of emergencies and was linked to more serious complaints. “Edible products,” the authors note, “accounted for 10.7% of cannabis-attributable visits between 2014 and 2016 but represented only 0.32% of total cannabis sales in Colorado (in kilograms of tetrahydrocannabinol) during that period.” The effects most likely to send consumers to EDs are intoxication, acute psychiatric symptoms, and cardiovascular symptoms.
Further, it’s been shown that edibles may be hazardous to children. The media has reported an increase in cases of unintentional consumption of cannabis—kids mistaking edibles for ordinary candy and other treats. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, more than 3,000 children, all younger than 12 and most younger than 5, were accidentally exposed to cannabis products in 2020.
The headlines might have readers believing edibles are detrimental to health, but they tell only part of the story. While there are associated hazards and challenges, these can be mitigated. Moreover, edibles offer a host of benefits to consumers, including cost savings, a smoke-free experience, and longer-lasting effectiveness.
In this issue, contributor Emily Kyle looks at both sides of the story, reporting on the risks and benefits of edibles.
— Kate Jackson